• Published 8th Sep 2023
  • 516 Views, 20 Comments

Bid Time Return - Commander30

Discord's attempts to think of a birthday present for Fluttershy keep getting sidetracked.

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Chapter Two

Sugar Cube Corner had yet to open for the day, but the shop was still bustling inside, thanks to the usual preparations by its early riser. Since the wee hours of the morning, long before Celestia had raised the sun, Pinkie Pie had been hard at work, baking all sorts of delicious pastries and treats.

As far back as she could remember, Pinkie had always been an early riser. She figured it was probably partially due to growing up on a farm, and also due to her great dislike of remaining still, no matter the reason. Most nights she didn’t even go to bed until midnight, sometimes later, just because her energy didn’t top out until then. And the amount of sugar she regularly consumed in a day helped, too.

Hmm, now that she thought about it, the sugar was probably a more major factor in her sleep/wake cycle than anything else…

Well. Anyway, no matter the cause, Pinkie’s ability to get by—thrive, even—on such little sleep benefited both her and her employers very well. Mr. and Mrs. Cake were able to sleep in in the mornings (at least as much as their baby twins would let them) while Pinkie tended to the first bakings of the day, and in the afternoons, after dropping off the twins at the daycare/corral, they’d take over from Pinkie, leaving Pinkie free to plan parties, throw parties, think about parties, attend parties that she hadn’t had a hoof in (a rare occasion nowadays, since she was involved in almost every party thrown in Ponyville), and, of course, spend time with her friends.

Of course, she was running on slightly less sleep than usual this particular morning, thanks to the Grand Galloping Gala the night before. Unsurprisingly, she had partied the entire night, closing the place down. If one could “close down” a palace, of course. Well, Pinkie could! Pinkie and Maud! Not that Maud had really been doing much partying at the end, but she had been helping to clean up the ballroom as the last remaining ponies other than Pinkie had filed out, for which an exhausted Twilight had been most grateful. It had been pretty late, even for Pinkie, and she knew Maud liked her sleep, but her sister wouldn’t hear any apology. “It’s just one time a year, I can handle it,” she’d told her. Of course, Maud had fallen asleep almost immediately after boarding the train back home and Pinkie had had to shake her awake at her stop.

Despite the later than usual night, however, Pinkie was up at her usual time, cheerfully humming to herself as she slathered chocolate icing on a fresh batch of donuts. The store would be opening in about half an hour and there were still plenty of sweets to be made. Especially considering the fact that Pinkie had been munching on more than usual this morning. Late night and all, you know.

She heard a knock on the door and looked up from her work. “We’re not open yet!” she called out brightly. This always seemed to happen, the smell of her confections apparently too good to resist. Ponies could be so impatient sometimes.

The mystery impatient pony knocked again.

“If you wait for half an hour, I’ll give ya a freebie!” Pinkie offered.

The bell above the door rang out, even though the door remained firmly shut.

Any other pony might have been disturbed by this, but Pinkie was only mildly confused. “Not just a free donut, but also a free croissant! And that’s my final offer!”

“Hmm, tempting.” From the top of the bell grew the familiar (if unusual) form of Discord, and he whacked the bell with his tail once more before floating over to Pinkie’s work counter. “I would say throw in a cinnamon bun and you’ve got yourself a deal, but… I’m already inside, so the point seems moot.” He peered at her icing. “Is that double fudge?”

“Yes indeedy!” Pinkie proudly proclaimed. “But your freebie is just a regular glazed donut, since you cheated by ignoring the door and all.”

“I wasn’t aware that was a rule.” Discord didn’t seem too upset by this, however, amiably grabbing a glazed donut from the display case. He conjured up a pepper shaker and a bottle of hot sauce and began to season the donut. “But at any rate, Miss Pie, I’m actually here with an inquiry related to your other line of work.”

Pinkie’s ears perked up. “Ooohh! Are you thinking of throwing a party? Do you need help? Because you’ve come to the right pony!”

“Precisely, Ponyville’s premiere party planner, Pinkie Pie!” Having seasoned the donut to his liking, Discord now conjured up a straw and began to sip it up. “But ‘party’ is probably a pinch too prolific for my problem. A proposal of a perfect present would be more prudent.”

“Well, the perfect present depends a lot on the occasion and who it’s for,” said Pinkie. She propped her forehooves up on the counter eagerly. “So what’s the occasion and who’s it for?”

Discord sucked up the last of the donut and dabbed at his mouth with a plaid sock, letting hot sauce drip from his beard onto the counter. “Well, last night, after my… deplorable behavior, a dear mutual friend of ours informed me that her birthday is next week—“

Pinkie gasped loudly, surprised at herself for not cluing into the nature of Discord’s request sooner. “Oh, of course! Fluttershy! You want help with getting a gift for Fluttershy!” She stopped, blinked, and frowned slightly. “You want help with getting a gift for Fluttershy? Really? I’d think that would be easy for you!”

“I am experienced with many things, Pinkie Pony Pie, but unfortunately the social ins and outs of parties and celebrations are not part of that list. As, erm, I’m sure my conduct last night made perfectly clear.” Discord coughed awkwardly, looking slightly embarrassed. It wasn’t a look that Pinkie was used to seeing on him.

“Well, sure,” Pinkie said with a shrug, “but presents and gifts and stuff don’t have to come with parities. Some parties don’t have gifts, and you can give a gift without having a party! But who would want to?” she added under her breath.

“Well, my experience in gift-giving is just as lacking as my experience in party-going,” Discord admitted.

“Yeah, but out of everypony I know, you should have the easiest time coming up with a present!” Pinkie said. “You can make anything just pop out of the sky! And you and Fluttershy are so close, I’m sure you don’t need any gift suggestions for her!”

“Ah, but see, that’s the trouble!” Discord dramatically flung an arm over his eyes. “I know perfectly well that Fluttershy would be happy with any old thing I could conjure up, but she deserves something far more special and thought-out! I owe her. After last night, and last… month… and, well, last everything. And nothing I can think of seems good enough.”

Pinkie did sympathize with Discord’s dilemma, yet she could still feel a grin spread across her face. He was just so weirdly adorable, trying to make this grand gesture for Fluttershy! It had been pretty obvious even before last night that he was carrying a torch for her, and well, now that torch was practically a stadium light. And in Pinkie’s opinion, it was the cutest thing ever. Planning their wedding reception was going to be such a blast…

“Don’t worry about it!” she said, unable to hide her huge grin. “Whatever you decide, I’m sure Fluttershy will love it! Just don’t startle her or anything, you know how she is—but if she can tell that it came from your heart, she’ll be ecstatic, trust me!”

“Oh, believe me, I know better than that,” said Discord. Having finished his donut, he waved an arm and sent the straw hurtling through the ceiling, crashing through it and disappearing with a loud hiss. “I don’t want to startle her. But I want to… impress her. Knock her off her hooves. I want her to realize…”

Pinkie continued to excitedly grin in Discord’s direction, and he harrumphed, waving his arm again to push the conversation aside.

“I just want to give her the present she deserves,” he finished simply.

Pinkie bit the insides of her cheeks to keep herself from squeeing.

“Anything that you give her will be the present she deserves,” she said aloud, as encouraging as she’d ever sounded. “Because it’s obvious that you’ve put so much thought into it already! And besides, you have a few days to figure it out, anyway!”

“Ah yes, that reminds me, what day is Fluttershy’s birthday, exactly?” asked Discord, raising an eyebrow. “She wasn’t exactly specific with the information last night.”

“Oh, it’s a few days away!” Pinkie chirped eagerly. “October second!”

“Ah.” Discord snapped his fingers and a calendar appeared next to him. There was a large red circle around the current date. “And today appears to be Saturday, September twenty-ninth…” He flipped the calendar to the next month. “Her birthday is on Tuesday! That’s hardly any time at all!”

“Nah, that’s plenty of time!” said Pinkie, shrugging her shoulders good-naturedly. “And besides, I do all my best planning under pressure!”

“That’s not the advice I was expecting from you,” Discord admitted. “Your party-planning reputation led me to believe that you were practically drowning in planners and notebooks.”

“Well, I do have a—“ And then Pinkie suddenly gasped, loudly, nearly sucking in Discord’s calendar. This talk of calendars and planners led Pinkie to a sudden and unpleasant realization, one that she couldn’t fathom she hadn’t attended to until now.

“Give me that back, I need it!” cried Discord, snatching his calendar from mid-air, saving it from Pinkie’s mouth.

Pinkie hardly noticed. There were more pressing matters at hoof. “Discord! When is your birthday? I just realized that I’ve never asked you!” What if it had been in the past few months? Pinkie would have missed his birthday! And in her mind, there were few sins graver than missing a friend’s birthday!

Discord looked a little taken aback by this, too. “Um, well…” He flipped through his calendar a few times, then tucked it inside a pocket that seemed to be above his hoof, and shrugged sheepishly at Pinkie. “Doesn’t seem to be on the calendar.”

Pinkie could hardly grasp the implication. “What? Are you telling me that… you don’t even know when your birthday is?!”

Discord’s eyes knitted together defensively. “No, but—I don’t see why it even matters.” He brightened a bit and threw handfuls of confetti, party noisemakers sounding in the air behind him. “Every day’s a celebration when it comes to me!”

“But—didn’t your family celebrate your birthday with you?” Pinkie stammered out. What kind of parents didn’t celebrate the birthdays of their own children? Her own parents were very uptight and straight-laced, true, but even they had made sure that Pinkie and her sisters had had special recognition on their birthdays growing up.

“That would necessitate having a family to celebrate with,” Discord snapped. “And as far as I can remember, I never had…” He stopped, bristling up again, and folded his arms and turned away from Pinkie. “It’s really none of your business, you know.”

“Of course it’s my business! Friends celebrate friends’ birthdays!” Her eyes grew wide again, but this time the beginnings of a smile accompanied it. “So if you don’t know when yours is, that means you can pick a date!” She jumped up fully onto the counter, beaming at Discord. “What’s your favorite day?”

Discord took a step back, blinking in surprise. “Erm, well… I like Tuesdays…”

“No, silly, a favorite calendar day! Or maybe we should start with a month first and work our way from there? Do you like January, February—“

“I really don’t care for anything on a calendar, thank you very much!”

“Is there a day that means something special to you?”

“October second,” Discord replied instantly.

Pinkie squealed. “Oh that’s so cuuuuute!”

“It’s not cute!” Discord protested. “It’s—“

“It’s piggybacking,” Pinkie interrupted, getting back on track. “If you’re picking a birthday you shouldn’t share one with any of us. Wait! I’ve got it! How about June third?”

Discord blinked again. “What in Equestria is so special about June third?”

“You don’t remember?”

Discord shook his head, but before he could say anything more, Pinkie pulled out her yearly planner and flipped to June, nearly every date having been filled in with some plan or event. “June third is the very first party I ever threw for you, since it’s the day that you became our friend! See?” She showed him the entry for that date, where she had written a large “THROW A ‘DISCORD IS OUR FRIEND NOW’ PARTY (short notice but TOTALLY WORTH IT!)”.

Discord looked at the entry, blinking slowly. “You… remembered that? Without having to look?”

Pinkie chuckled lightly. “Yeah, I’ve got a real head for dates. Especially dates that involve parties.” She flipped through the planner again, even though she didn’t really need to. “And if you had a June birthday, that would work out for me, since I don’t have any close friends yet who have a June birthday!”

“Hmm… interesting dilemma, I suppose?” Discord offered, still sounding slightly befuddled.

“I know, weird, right?” said Pinkie with a slightly disbelieving giggle, her curls bouncing off her nape. “Applejack’s birthday is in January and Rarity’s is in February, and my mom’s is in March and my sister Limestone’s is in April and my sister Marble’s is in May, same as mine of course, oh and Spike’s hatchday is in May too, and then Rainbow’s July and Twilight’s August and my sister Maud’s September, and Fluttershy’s October obviously, and then my dad’s is November—and there aren’t any in December either, but that’s fine since we’re all busy for Hearth’s Warming that month anyway—but there was nothing really in June! Until now!” She grinned even brighter, realizing something else. “And if you go with the third, that means we have the same date, just one month apart, since my birthday’s May third! It works out perfectly!”

“Alright, alright, near-birthday-buddy,” Discord said. He finally smiled, even though it was a slight one. “If you pin that much importance on it, then June third is a good a day as any other.” He hesitated, then frowned slightly. “Did you say Rainbow Dash’s birthday was in July, and Princess Sparkplug has an August birthday?”

“That’s right!” chirped Pinkie. “Rainbow’s birthday is July twenty-seventh, and Twilight’s—“

“I assume parties were thrown for each birthday mare, correct? And I wasn’t invited?!”

Pinkie blinked. “No, I did invite you to Rainbow’s! I asked Fluttershy to tell you since I have no idea how to reach you. She said she invited you but you declined.”

“Oh, right, I remember now.” Discord looked a bit embarrassed again. Pinkie would have to get used to that, she figured. “But what about Twilight’s celebration? Surely you threw one for her, too?”

“Well…” Pinkie faltered. “I did plan one for her, but it ended up being way different, since her birthday’s August thirtieth, and you know, with… um, everything that happened that day…”

“What happened on…” Discord caught himself. “Oh. Wait. I assume August thirtieth was when…”

“Yeah, when you were a real poopy-head,” Pinkie said.

“That’s putting it lightly,” Discord said with a sigh. “I didn’t realize that that all happened on her birthday… she never said anything… urgh.” He abruptly whacked himself in the head. “How do you deal with it, anyway?”

“With what?” Pinkie asked, perplexed.

“With the guilt. Especially now knowing that I ruined her birthday… and even then, she still called me a friend…” Discord groaned again, and a gray raincloud appeared above him, storming sludge on his head. “I’m not used to… feeling this way, and I don’t like it… I already apologized! And I meant it! But I still feel awful!”

“That’s natural,” said Pinkie with a shrug. “You were acting really crummy that day.”

“Rub it in, why don’t you?” Discord scoffed angrily. “I came here to talk to you about Fluttershy, not Twilight!”

“Well, Twilight’s your friend too, right?” Pinkie asked.

“I… well… apparently.” Discord’s shoulders sagged. “Now I have to make it up to her too, don’t I?”

“You gave her the key to unlocking the Elements of Harmony!” Pinkie reminded him. “I’d say you’ve already made it up to her!”

“But I didn’t… do anything for her birthday… argh!” Discord smacked himself again. “This whole ‘conscience’ thing is a real pain in the spine, you know that, right?”

Pinkie just smiled at that. “That just means that you’re a good creature and you care about your friends. It’s a good thing!”

“No, it’s a bad thing, because now I’m sidetracked from my mission to get Fluttershy the birthday present she deserves, since now all I can think of is trying to make it up to Twilight!” He scowled at Pinkie. “Thanks for nothing, Premiere Party Planner Pinkie Pie!” And he snapped his fingers and vanished in a flash of light.

Pinkie just chuckled to herself before turning her attention back to the donuts she had been frosting.

“You’re welcome!”

Spike laid in his bed and stretched out awkwardly, his tail twitching with slight impatience. He was awake, technically, but he was refusing to actually rise until absolutely necessary. Twilight had had a long night last night, helping Celestia with the Grand Galloping Gala, which meant that she probably wouldn’t be rising very early this morning, either. And that meant that Spike got to sleep in a bit, too. Early mornings were becoming more and more common for Twilight, what with all her princess duties and all. And as her number one assistant, Spike’s schedule had to adapt, too. He was pretty sure Twilight was adjusting better than he was… but if it was to help out his honorary big sister, he’d wake up before sunrise if he had to.

Not that he particularly liked it.

Stretching again, Spike blinked, trying to keep his eyes closed, but it was no use—he seemed to be awake for the day already. Normally Twilight woke him up, but apparently she’d instilled the early-rise habit in him so well that he was waking at the usual hour all on his own. Granted, he hadn’t gone to sleep much later than usual last night, either. Clean-up and closing down the gala had presumably kept Twilight up past her usual bedtime, but Spike hadn’t stayed the whole time. The intrigue of the whole affair had lost its luster a bit after the let-down that was the previous year’s gala, and this year’s had been… interesting, to say the least. Spike found that he didn’t want to stay, and was feeling a little tired anyway, and upon noticing his state, Twilight had insisted that he turn in for the night, assuring him that with everything now under control, she could handle things without him.

Spike sat up a little bit straighter in the bed, slowly coming to the realization that being awake right now was a good thing. Given how late the gala had been expected to run, Twilight was probably still asleep, and thus wouldn’t request his services for anything until later—much later, most likely. He could finally get caught up on his comic books without any interruptions!

But when he turned around to grab a comic from the stack on the side of his bed, he recoiled in horror upon encountering Discord, his head poking up from his blankets. “Where’s Twilight?” he growled.

“Uh-uhm… asleep, I think?” Spike stammered.

“Then it’s time for a wake-up call.” Discord raised his lion’s paw in the air and was about to snap his fingers, but then he stopped himself. “Hmm, actually… on second thought, I think you’ll be a greater help to me with this particular conundrum.”

Still trying to get his breathing under control, Spike managed to choke out “I’m, uh, happy to be of service, but… can you stop with the creepy entrances that freak me out?”

“Had to get your attention somehow.” Discord smirked at Spike and snaked fully out from under the covers. “You’re awake now, aren’t you?”

“I was awake before you got here,” Spike muttered.

“Good. I wouldn’t want you nodding off. You see, Spike, I’ve hit upon a snag…” Discord waved an arm absent-mindedly to his side, Spike’s blanket snagged upon one of his claws. “And the snag is quite sparkly and Twilight-y. I was going to ask Twilight herself on how to detangle this, but upon further reflection, your input into the matter will be far better, so that Twilight won’t even see it coming.”

Spike groaned in irritation. “Look, I’m awake, but not that awake. Can you just tell me what you want without being so vague about it?” He reached up and yanked his blanket back.

Discord frowned at him, but did nothing to snatch the blanket away from him, at least, which Spike was quite glad of. “It has come to my attention that Twilight had a birthday recently. And not only was I unaware of this, but on the date in question I was behaving, um… rather poorly.”

“You don’t say,” Spike muttered.

“It may be bad form to celebrate one’s birthday a month after the fact,” Discord continued, “and admittedly I’m not well-versed enough in the matter to know one way or the other. But my…” He shuddered. “My… conscience… is insisting that I still rectify the matter and present her with a gift of some kind, especially considering how readily she extended the olive branch towards me. She… didn’t have to do that. And I feel that I’ve never really… thanked her properly. Especially now that I know that all that happened on her birthday, of all days.”

Spike considered this. Yes, on many accounts, Twilight’s twentieth birthday had been one of her worst. Instead of celebrating, she’d had to deal with ponies everywhere being sapped of their powers, the betrayal from someone she’d just started to consider a friend, all of her friends being presented to her as bartering chips, the destruction of her home… but in the end, she’d rediscovered her gift of the Element of Magic even stronger than ever, she’d gained a new home in her very own castle, and she’d felt, for the first time, that Discord really and truly could be considered her friend. Spike knew all this because she’d told him, explaining to him a few days afterwards that she still felt grateful, despite everything that’d happened.

But he also could understand why Discord would still feel horrible about the whole thing, of course.

“So, do you want a suggestion on what to get her for a belated birthday present?” he asked.

“That would be very much appreciated, yes. And don’t waste my time by suggesting just some run-of-the-mill bauble that any old sap could get her. I want this present to be so fantabulous that it’ll make her over the moon, and that way I can stop feeling guilty over what I did to her.”

Spike snorted a bit, although he could still feel himself smiling a little, too. “Yeah, it doesn’t quite work that way, unfortunately… but you’re in luck,” he continued quickly, sensing that Discord was about to cut him off. “Twilight’s super easy to buy for. Just get her a book and she’ll be ecstatic.”

Discord frowned, crossing his arms. “And is a book not just some meaningless bauble that anypony with half a brain cell could gift her?”

“You wanted something that she’ll love and appreciate, and, well… a book is your best bet.” Spike shrugged awkwardly, not sure why he was feeling apologetic over this. “No matter what book it is, she’ll love it, and she’ll read it. Even if it’s one she already has. Honestly, the hard part now is finding a book that she hasn’t already read.”

“Was that a challenge?” Discord brightened a bit. “Because finding a book that no pony has ever laid eyes on before will be a piece of cake.” A book-shaped cake appeared in front of him, and he began flipping through its “pages”, sending frosting and bits of cake flying through the air. “But which to pick… which would she appreciate the most…”

“Uh… that book…” Confused, Spike raised a claw to indicate at the… thing Discord had conjured. “Will it go bad?”

“Absolutely not. I won’t give it the chance.” And with that assertion, Discord slammed the cake book shut and devoured it in one go.

“Honestly, Twilight probably would have liked that book, assuming it had information in it…and assuming it wouldn’t go dry and stale after a week…”

“Well, what other kinds of books would she like? Preferably ones that don’t have to be refrigerated, but I can work with just about anything.” Discord dabbed at his mouth with a denim hankie.

Spike tapped his chin thoughtfully. “Well, there is one thing that I know would mean the world to her… if you can get it.”

“Ha! Try me.” Discord grinned proudly and confidently.

“So, as you probably know, when Tirek destroyed the library, Twilight didn’t just lose her home. She lost all of her books, too. Luckily, she’s been able to find copies of most of the books she lost, so the library is close to what it was before. But some of the books that were destroyed were exclusive to Ponyville… like, the history of the town and things like that. She hasn’t been able to find other copies of those anywhere else, and she’s been feeling a little depressed at the thought of all that history being lost. But unfortunately, no other towns seem to have records on the local history here…”

“Wait, wait, wait.” Discord held out a large STOP sign and blew a loud whistle that suddenly appeared in his mouth. “Your suggestion is a local history tome? Pages and pages of city ordinances, charters, and resolutions regarding which streets need to be paved?!”

“I’m sure it’s… a little more interesting than just that,” Spike stammered unconvincingly.

“It’s Dullsville Central.” Discord vehemently shook his head. “And under no circumstances will I, Discord, lord of chaos and crusader against banality, ever give a gift like that to anypony who I consider a friend.”

“It would mean the world to Twilight, though,” Spike said.

“Well, Twilight needs better taste,” Discord quipped.

Spike sighed with impatience, but shrugged lightly, sensing that this particular line of conversation wasn’t going to persuade the draconequus. “It was just a suggestion. But it’s fine either way. The book was completely destroyed anyway, and I’m sure that not even you could get it back for her.”

“Excuse me?” Discord’s voice dropped to a dangerous register that Spike hadn’t heard in awhile, and it made him genuinely recoil a bit from fear. “Are you implying that you don’t believe I’m capable of doing it?”

“No, I-I…” And then Spike stood up straighter and looked Discord straight in the eyes. “Actually, yes, I am.”

“Ha!” Spike swore that a loud thunderclap accompanied Discord’s outburst. “Well, prepare to eat crow, little dragon. If long, boring volumes of a podunk town’s history are really what Twilight wants, then that’s what she’ll get!” And he snapped his fingers and disappeared in a brilliant flash of light.

After taking a moment to get reacquainted with the silence, Spike felt himself grin. He settled back down into a seated position on his bed, turning his attention back to his comic books.

If this worked, Twilight was going to be very excited indeed.